Wessex League attendance Round Up

27 Feb
The main stand at Miller's Park - this was transplanted from the former ground at Southern Gardens

Spectators in the Wessex League at Totton & Eling

Firstly I’d like to say thank you to the Wessex League for kindly providing me with the attendance tables to enable me to do these charts and analysis. I’ve been quite keen to do this for a while as I know that quite a lot of people have an interest in the Wessex League and you never know a few may be interested in attendances too!

All the figures are up to date as far as last Saturday, the 21st February

Headline figures:

Wessex Lg Prem Home Att

Looking at the basic averages the top three slots are occupied by Winchester City with an average attendance of 152, Newport Isle of Wight on 120 and Andover Town with 114. Just behind them, in fourth place – and the final member of the over 100 club – is AFC Portchester on 103.

In many ways it is unsurprising to see Winchester at the top. Winchester is the largest settlement where a Wessex League side is the top team, with a population of 116,000 according to the 2011 Census.

Similarly Newport, though smaller, enjoys a status as the biggest team on the whole island. Both Newport and Winchester have also played at a higher level and although both have had their troubles they are at present doing well in the league which is likely to be another factor behind their ability to pull in the crowds.

Comparison with last season

Thanks to a broken laptop I have lost the set of complete data for last year’s attendances, but I do know that when I last looked at Wessex League attendances, back in October 2014, Winchester were averaging 169, Newport 134 AFC Portchester 109.  All three are down slightly on last year, something which I will put down to the promotion of Sholing. Arguably this has been (in attendance terms) both bad for the league, and bad for Sholing, who up to last October averaged 168 in the Wessex League, but are currently averaging 127 in the Southern League South and West Division.

Derby games

One of my favourite features of the Wessex league is the local derby games. Last Season I visited Sholing for the derby against Follands Sports who had quite literally travelled just round the road. With a lot of Follands supporters present the atmosphere in the ground was good and Sholing enjoyed a good gate.

Sholing hosting Follands Sports in last seasons derby

Sholing hosting Follands Sports in last seasons derby

The attendance stats clearly suggest that proximity plays a big role in determining match day attendances. Looking at the main derby for each club I’ve compiled a list. As a caveat some games are yet to be played, but it shows that at present the core derby action is concentrated around Winchester with the biggest derby Andover Town v Winchester drawing a Wessex Premier highest gate of 228, with the return fixture at Winchester also pulling in a respectable 191 spectators.

WSX prem derby

Petersfield have taken part in two derbies pulling in 200, at home to Winchester City and away to Moneyfields in what I like to call the A272 and A3 derbies.

One interesting point I noticed is that Newport IOW tended to attract bigger gates against teams based in coastal settlements. The attendance at St Georges Park against Pompey-based Moneyfields was 186, possibly swelled by a few away fans who simply hopped on a ferry (or hovercraft) to enjoy a nice day-trip.

Clubs on the geographic periphery of the league however, face something a disadvantage compared to those clubs which can be found in clusters. Bemerton Heath Harlequins for instance have no real local derby fixture, with nearby clubs Downton and Laverstock & Ford both being in Division One.

Pulling power:

In addition to this I looked at each team’s away attendance. In the Premier Division Winchester with an average of 118, Petersfield on 92 and Moneyfields with  90 enjoyed the biggest crowds on the road. Interestingly Blackfield and Langley have managed to average far more away from home, 89, than the 56 who usually turn up to watch them at Gang Warily. The reverse is true of Newport IOW who despite averaging 120 at home, only manage 69 away, and which I put down to the difficulty and expense Newport fans would have getting to and from places like Verwood, Petersfield and Whitchurch.

wessex Lg away Prem att

As an extra exercise I decided to take the away match day attendances for each team and compare these against the season-so-far average for the home side. I then averaged this out, the idea being to give an indication of how many extra spectators above (or below) the ‘usual’ baseline turned out for each away team.

pulling power chart

The results from this show that on their travels Winchester City, on average, attracted 46 more spectators than could usually be expected at a typical game. This was much higher than joint second placed Petersfield Town and Moneyfields who both, on average, attracted 18 more spectators than could be expected.

There are two explanations for this 1.) That more people come out to watch top teams, or 2.) Winchester, Petersfield and Moneyfields have the biggest travelling support which swells attendances at whichever club is hosting them. A third explanation (and in my view the most likely) is that it is in fact a bit of both – from the figures though it is impossible to separate home from away, or even neutral spectators.

Division One

Cowes Sports top Division One with an average attendance of 90. This is particularly impressive and would put them in fifth place in the Premier Division, just ahead of Petersfield Town. Cowes Sports are also still due to host an all-Cowes derby against East Cowes Vics so their final average could well go up, provided this fixture doesn’t for whatever reason end up being played on a rainy mid-week.

WSX one home att

In 5th place in the League and their Cowes brethren the Vics lying in bottom place Sports can boast of being the islands second team, behind Newport. As we have seen there is a suggestion that Newport do not have much in the way of travelling support, which may be due to logistics – could it be that Cowes Sports are the chief beneficiaries when Newport are off playing in the more far-flung parts of the region?

WSX one away

One of the most interesting points is the difference between Team Solent’s home and away average attendances. So far Solent have attracted just 24 people, on average, to their Test Park base. This figure is the second worst in the league, behind US Portsmouth – a ground to which access involves passing a naval-base checkpoint. Both, of course, experience such attendances as they are sides which are backed by institutions, rather than a local support-base, but those living nearby the Solent ground may be missing something as league-leaders Solent are the biggest draw on the road, averaging 55 per game, just in front of Laverstock & Ford’s 52.


In general the division one clubs tend to be located in the far-flung fringes of the region, such as Pewsey Vale which lies roughly between Salisbury and Swindon. A consequence of this is that true derby games are fewer in number, but. there are still a number of derbies of note in Division One. The biggest so far being the Salisbury-area derby between Downton and Laverstock & Ford which drew a crowd of 140

WSX one derbies

In second place, with a crowd of 129 is the Cowes Derby. This is probably made more interesting by the fact that Cowes is divided in two by the river Medina and connected only by a chain-ferry. Cowes Sports hail from West Cowes, while the Vics sit on a hill in East Cowes.

Third place is awarded to Cowes Sports v New Milton Town. It’s always difficult to say what constitutes a derby, but this one just creeps in due to the proximity of New Milton to the island and to ferry services; In any case its tempting to suppose the crowd of 110 may well have been swelled by a few day-trippers.

This concludes the round up which I hope you’ve enjoyed. I’m hoping the league will be kind enough to give me the figures again at the end of the season, so if there’s enough interest I can do this again.

Where have all the Franny’s Gone? Comparing player Turnover

20 Feb

Yesterday I got to thinking about squad turnover. It’s often said that players come and go and Southampton’s summer exodus seemed to stand in contrast to the old Dell days when the likes of Benali, Dodd and Le Tissier gave the team a familiar feel over the course of many seasons, but just how much is this impression rooted in reality? Do players really move from club to club that much more?

Using some old programmes I’ve taken two points in time January 11th 1997 and January the 1st 2015. I’ve then looked at the starting XI for each game. Respectively these were against Middlesbrough in 1997 and Arsenal in 2015.

  • The 2015 starting XI have played, on average, 49 games for Saints. The class of 1997 however, had played, on average, 65 games for Saints. The median figures are 22 for 2015 and 35 for 1997
  • Three of the starting XI Robinson, Benali and Oakley had at that point only ever played for Southampton, making 302 appearances between them. In 2015 James Ward-Prowse is the only member of the team to have only played for the club, with a total of 71 appearances.
  • In 2015 Jose Fonte is the only member of the starting XI to have clocked up in excess of 100 appearances for Saints. In the 1997 line-up three players: Ken Monkou (164), Francis Benali (256) and Jim Magilton (131) had made over a century.
  • Missing from the 2015 line-up, through suspension, is Morgan Schniederlin with 254 appearances however also missing from the 1997 starting line-up was Matt Le Tissier who was then on 424 appearances.

Appearances Comparison

appearance comparison

Saints, Pompey and the city that never was…

18 Feb

Recently I’ve been looking beyond blogging to a few different projects. One of these is looking at the history of Southampton FC from a ‘what if’ perspective. It’s a long way from completion (if it does ever see the light of day!), but I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of the output and see what people think. The what if here relates to a plan, which seems almost unthinkable, but was seriously considered in the 1960s…

We have glimpsed at the possibilities of a new kind of metropolitan area for people who may or may not be more affluent and more leisured than we are today, but who are certain to be better educated. For them we have seen clustered housing in rich variety with rivers and woodlands in interlacing patterns, countryside and marine recreations ready to hand, easy for movement , convenient for shopping, strongly based on educational establishments, a powerful commercial centre, and (as important as anything) a venue for “21st century” industry. Seen in this light we realised that expansion could bring incalculable profit to the whole nation

Buchanan & Partners South Hampshire Study: Report on the feasibility of major urban growth Ministry of Housing and Local Government HMSO 1966

Lying in the depths of Southampton’s civic archive is a document with a plan so radical, of such magnitude, that had it been implemented the whole region – maybe even the whole country – would today look vastly different: Officially named The South Hampshire Study the 1966 publication by Colin Buchanan and Partners sets out the blue-print for what is more commonly known as Solent City – a name which was not used in the South Hampshire Study itself, but came from an earlier publication, A Town called Alcan, which had tabled proposals for a similar ‘linear-city’ development.

The intent of the plan outlined in the SHS was to create a city able to accommodate a growing population, promote new types of industry such as electronics and act as a ‘counterweight’ to London. The city would be joined up by a grid system of road and rail with several major routes connecting the city from East to West, bookended by the ancient cities of Southampton and Portsmouth.

It is these two cities which have had a longstanding rivalry. There is much myth and confusion about the historic origins of this rivalry with various explanations offered from strike-breaking to medieval administrative antagonisms.

What is more abundantly clear is that today it is the two cities respective football clubs which are beacons of this rivalry. It is also one which has hardened in the past few years. Whilst football has generally shaken off the tarnish of the era of hooliganism to become safer and more family friendly games between the two have been at best ill-tempered. Infamously in one 2004 meeting which resulted in 94 arrests a 14 year old girl became the youngest female to receive a ban from football matches. Non-competitive games between the two which were once an regular feature would today be almost unthinkable, the last being veteran Pompey ‘keeper Alan Knight’s testimonial in 1994

So what would have happened had the Solent City plan been realised, would the rivalry be as deep as it has become today, or would it have taken a different course?

The authors of the Urban South Hampshire Study were clear in that their vision was not simply to expand, or merge the cities, but to create a whole new entity and the development was meant to re-enforce this

In general terms we think both cities would need to find their futures in identifying themselves as important parts of a new metropolitan area on the south coast. This is especially applicable to Portsmouth. This city, with the greatest respect, is a city with a question mark over it

Had this occurred then the logical step would be for the rivalry between the cities and football fans to evaporate with the softening of the lines on the map. Boundaries can change and it is worth remembering that the Hampshire Senior Cup final of 1893 was added extra poignancy by the fact that Freemantle was due to be swallowed up by its burgeoning neighbour and the Magpies victory that day could be seen as a reassertion of Freemantle’s identity as something distinct. In the present day however, the idea that today a resident of Freemantle – or indeed a resident of Bitterne, Portswood, or St. Deny’s – would draw a distinction between being a resident of their area and a resident of Southampton is extremely unlikely.

The planners proposals sought to remodel the existing cities, including a shift the new mega-cities centre of gravity to the points where the major routes intersected at Eastleigh or Cosham. Such re-modelling would lead to some displacement of the population from what are core areas of the clubs supporter base, weakening these. Furthermore Solent City would also have had many cases of shared symbols, perhaps even a landmark piece of architecture or two. In time structures such as the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, or London Eye become focal points of a shared sense of identity.

All of this in time this would erode the identity of Southampton and Portsmouth without which the rivalry would be almost meaningless.

Finally there is the question of novelty factor. It has been suggested that one reason for the derby having added significance is that the two clubs fortunes have rarely aligned. This makes games between the two rare events, more so since the virtual cessation of non-competitive fixtures between the two. Solent City development would have been good for both clubs in terms of the population boost in their catchment as well as the economic power of the region as a whole. This would have made it easier to sustain two top flight clubs. Games between the two would have become routine events and therefore less likely to cause much excitement, much like as if Christmas was every day.

On the other hand some of the fiercest and most keenly contested rivalries take place within a single city. In fact the battle to acquire bragging rights as Solent City’s premier team may even lend the rivalry an extra edge. The examples of Arsenal and Tottenham, Rangers and Celtic, Liverpool and Everton, Bristol City and Bristol Rovers all demonstrate that sharing a city doesn’t act in any way to diminish a rivalry between football clubs.

Similarly history and identity cannot be so easily erased, even by the bulldozer. It is possible that the rivalry would become even more potent as the population reacted against official efforts to mould a new pan-Solent identity. Even with better transport links and greater fluidity of movement, people still do not tend to move far from their support networks. This impulse would ensure that despite remodelling and displacement old networks and allegiances would find a way to endure.  The two clubs would come to represent a form of resistance to the new vision and the new landscape – a way of kicking back against large-scale change. In this case a rivalry would be at the very least as fierce and intense as today, but may well have been even more so.

All this remains conjecture. Buchanan and Partner’s plans were met with a less than favourable response and instead of becoming reality were banished to a dusty shelf in the bowels of Southampton civic centre. There is however, an irony, pointed out by Nicholas Phelps in his book An Anatomy of Sprawl: Planning and Politics in Britain. It is that what opponents of Solent City most feared, urban sprawl, has come to pass. The hinterland between the two cities, of villages and strawberry fields has been largely developed, into a continuous edgeland of suburban cul-de-sacs, industrial estates and retail parks; Piecemeal and lacking a unifying one-city vision. At some point in this a no-man’s land red becomes blue, but for the most part those residents watching football on their televisions are as likely to be wearing Liverpool, Chelsea, or Manchester United shirts while at the far ends the poles of Southampton and Portsmouth seem further apart than ever.

The decline of luck in football

4 Feb

Recently I wrote about the gradual increase in inequality when looking at Premier League clubs number of wins per season. To recap – over time there has been a long-term tendency for the number of wins to be shared less equitably among the competing teams.

One explanation I offered for this was luck and as luck would have it as I was pondering this I came across Ed Smith’s book Luck.

In this Smith makes the argument that football is, by its nature, determined significantly by luck

The huge size of football’s currency unit – the goal – makes luck a far greater force in football than in other sports. A net cord, we already know, can randomly determine a single tennis point. But it would be staggeringly unlikely that one player could get enough lucky net cords in one match to change the result. In football, by contrast, one lucky score is all you need.

Citing Stefan Szymanski he adds however, that the Premier league and its brand of financial inequality have acted to reduce the role of luck over a season, with the number of wins correlated with a clubs financial muscle – though he does maintain that when it comes to individual games there is still a role for luck to play.

One way of visualising the degree of luck in football (in Luck Smith points to a similar exercise involving American Football) is to observe the distribution of wins. The more luck (which is random) plays a part in determining the results the more the chart will represent a normal distribution – or to use its other name the bell-curve – which is the sort of distribution you’d end up with if results were determined by flipping a coin, or rolling a dice.

bell curve

Taking the 1929-30 season we can see that the distribution of wins is distinctly bell-curve like. In other words what we’d expect with a random distribution.

2930 season graph

Moving forward to the last full season in 2013-14 however, the distribution of wins over the season looks much less like a bell-curve with a breakaway number of clubs clumped at the far end; Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal.

1314 season graph

This is, of course just a snapshot, but below is a few more charts which suggest that over time the distribution has changed

5960 graph

7980 graph

8990 graph

9900 graph

0910 graph

In praise of Manager’s Notes

24 Jan

Programme notes

Arriving at a football ground in advance of kick off there are a few options for passing the time until kick-off; Watching the teams warm up, listening to the up-tempo motivational music pumped out by the tannoy system, observing the antics of the furry team mascot as it gambols around the sidelines, or reading the managers programme notes.

Manager’s notes are something of a football institution, but they have not been universally well-received. Ahead of a game with Manchester United in the 1969-70 season the then Arsenal manager Bertie Mee could barely contain his disdain when he set out his view in the notes that:

“I strongly believe that a Football manager’s job is one that does not permit him to appear too often in print. Equally, however, I believe that I owe it to our supporters to tell them from time, to time, just what is going on behind the scenes.”

It was not until the tail-end of the season, some seven months later, that Mee would allow his words to appear in the programme on the occasion of the second leg of the UEFA Cup against Anderlecht with Mee’s chief topic being his pleasure with the progress of Arsenal youngsters Eddie Kelly and Charlie George.

While some managers continue to avoid programme notes, leaving the job variously to chairmen, club captain, or programme editor, Mee’s view appears to be in the minority. Indeed one of his successors in the Arsenal hot-seat Arsene Wenger routinely fills several pages with conversational-style observations and anecdotes ranging from the performance of the team, the players, injuries, discussion of the attributes of the opposition and reflections on the ones-that-got-away. Reading these the fan can be forgiven for thinking, for a few moments at least, that they are engaged in a one-to-one chat over a pint with the manager.

Wenger has, of course, been with Arsenal for some time, but programme notes can be useful too for incoming manager looking to make a vitally good first impression with fans; setting out their credentials, and just as importantly their vision to return the club to greatness and like Louis Van Gaal, in his notes ahead of Manchester United’s pre-season friendly with Valencia, anticipating that “special moment” when he would be “walking out into the stadium as the manager of Manchester United.”

Equally for the under-pressure manager programme notes can provide a space for setting out excuses for ‘undeserved’ defeats; a long injury-list, fixture congestion, the bad luck in hitting the crossbar, the unjustly awarded (or denied) penalty and the unfair sending-off. Programme notes are a place for the manager to rail against everything that is wrong with the world.

For those of a more sporting bent, notes also allow the manager to acknowledge the achievements of the visitors, and of their opposite number – particularly if the visiting manager is a former colleague from back in their playing days. In fact this gesture is expected as demonstrated by the furore surrounding Jose Mourinho’s omission of any mention within his programme notes of Arsene Wenger’s achievement in leading Arsenal for his 1,000th game in charge against Chelsea.

Mind games, perhaps, but Mourinho – whose own notes rarely rise above the average – would do well to take a lesson from Brian Clough who manages to combine a gesture of sporting acknowledgement with a reminder of his own greatness. Welcoming Aston Villa ahead of a 1979 clash Clough opens his notes with:

“If there is any manager and club who have had more publicity than myself and Nottingham Forest this season it’s got to be Ron Saunders and Aston Villa.”

It is a line which you can only imagine Clough saying, though in a modern managers life you sense that there are several more pressing issues to attend to than sitting at the word processor and banging out a few hundred words, besides there is no shortage of capable writing talents involved in putting together the glossy ‘match-day magazine’.

Such developments should however, be resisted as managers notes are by far at their best when at their most eccentric and off-message – though few can be more off message than a one-time manager of Hampshire’s oldest football team, Fordingbridge Turks, who in recounting a 5-3 loss to Southbourne suggested that with the exception of two players “the rest of the team need shooting.”

When boss of Conference side Yeovil Town in the 1989-90 season Brian Hall, in his On the Ball column, eschewed the usual topics to produce some classics of the notes genre; One fine example being a surprisingly humorous account of a six-and-a-half-hour nightmare journey to Nottingham en route to take on Boston. Of the M1 Hall’s sense of frustration is tangiable as he writes

“We explored at about 1mph every yard of it from just outside Luton to Toddington, had a break to discuss the road surface and surrounding countryside and decided we were enjoying it so much that we continued our examination for a further five miles.”

It is a description which lays bare the unglamorous life behind-the-scenes in the lower reaches of the game. More importantly it somehow reduces the distance between the manager and the fan, which is what manager’s notes are all about.

Woolston Works Football Club; The team who may have been Southampton FC

6 Jan
The Songvand. Built at Woolston in 1883

The Songvand. Built at Woolston in 1883

Just down-river of St. Marys stadium, on the other side of the Itchen bridge, is the area of Woolston in which, alongside the river, where currently towers rise from the ground, lies the site of the Vosper Thornycroft shipyard. The yard, which until a decade ago dominated the area, now remains only in memory and a continuing legacy of white-van men who originally learnt their trade as yard apprentices in the 1970s and 80s.

It was in the latter part of the 19th century, when Southampton was in the throes of a transition from spa-town to industrial port, that the site became occupied by the ship-builder Thomas Ridley Oswald, arriving in the 1870s along with a large part of his workforce from the Wearside yard where he had previously based his operations.

According to the local Historian A.G.K. Leonard The yard’s first ship the Aberfoyle, weighing 953 tons was launched in 1876 and in 1877 Oswald partnered with John Murray Mordaunt, with the company becoming known as Oswald Mordaunt & Company. The scale of the operation on the banks of the Itchen was significant; Leonard states that White’s Hampshire Directory reported that by 1878 the yard had 1,000 employees over a 20 acre site (for comparison Southampton’s total population at the time of the 1881 census was 78,278).

Oswald’s interests however, seem to have extended beyond mere business, as Juson & Bull observe in Full-Time at The Dell Oswald “appeared to have a predilection for hiring artisans whose skills were not confined to shipbuilding and repair.” With workers drawn from the ship-building and footballing heartlands of Glasgow and the North East the effect on the local football scene was transformative as Juson & Bull illustrate with a 1936 quote by Willliam Pickford, a stalwart of local football who would go on to be chairman of the FA:

The effect of this galaxy of Scotsmen on the game in Hampshire was electrifying. Up to then few local people knew anything about the fine points of the game, and the public troubled little about it as a spectacle. The opening of the Woolston Shipyard… turned Southampton into an Association hot-bed and it woke up with a start

In their book Saints A Complete Record of Southampton Football Club 1885-1987 Gary Chalk and Duncan Holley report that in the late 1870s workers from the yard had formed a team, Southampton Rangers, who regularly played games on Southampton Common. Due to the itinerant nature of the workforce however, the team was rarely stable in terms of its make-up.

By the late 1880s though, a team made up primarily of workers from the yard, Woolston Works had come to dominate the local football scene. In the 1886-87 season Works, noted for a robust style of play, had played 16 games, with only two defeats and had scored 72 goals to a mere six conceded (Gannaway 1996). They had also claimed the Hants and Dorset Senior cup with a 1-0 win over Wimbourne and had reached the final of the Portsmouth & District Association Cup, where they lost 2-0 to a Portsmouth AFC side featuring none other than Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle in the Pompey goal. Works went on the next season to claim more silverware claiming both the Hampshire Football Association six-a-side tournament and the inaugural Hampshire Senior Cup the following season with another 1-0 win, this time over Winchester.

The fortunes of the Works however, were at this point in time still intractably linked to the fortunes of the yard. Unfortunately for the football team Oswald, Mordaunt & Co did indeed run into financial difficulties leading to the closure of the yard in April 1889 and the ultimate dissolution of the company. Having again reached the final of the Hampshire Senior Cup an exodus of players left the side offering only a weak defence of their Hampshire Senior Cup title, losing to the Royal Engineers of Aldershot. It was a sad end for a team which at the very peak of their powers the team had been undone by events off the field.

This was not however, the end of either shipbuilding on the site, or the yards association with football. The yard would reopen soon after in 1890 under new owners, passing through several hands before being acquired by J I Thornycroft & Co in 1904 – the Thornycroft’s name remaining associated with the yard until its final closure in 2004. There would be several sides which emerged from the yard with one Thornycroft’s (Woolston) side reaching the first round of the FA cup in 1920, where they would face first-division Burnley in 1919-20. Securing a 0-0 draw at Fratton Park (the game had at one point been due to be played at the Veracity Ground) the northerners won the replay 5-0. Finally Sholing (previously known as Vosper Thornycroft FC) became the last side to emerge from the yard in 1960 and currently play in the Southern League. None of these sides would however, ever dominate local football to the extent that the Works had done in their all too brief hey-day.

But, what if the company Oswald, Mordaunt & Co had not collapsed when it did? It is reasonable to suppose that St. Marys would have faced a major obstacle in their struggle to become the pre-eminent side in the area.

On the field Works could consider themselves the superior team. In a game between the two in 1888 Juson & Bull report that Works, winners of the Hampshire Senior Cup beat St. Mary’s, winners of the Junior Cup, 3-0. Perhaps most importantly the Works were also ensconced in one of the few enclosed venues in the town available for football, the Antelope Cricket ground.

Although the sale of the land which it occupied (modern day St. Mary’s Street) for development in 1896 meant that the Saints tenure at the Antelope would be relatively short its importance in the clubs development cannot be understated; As Dave Juson states on the website Deftly Hallowed the Antelope played a key role in St. Mary’s rise

It was at the Antelope St Mary’s firmly established themselves as Hampshire’s pre-eminent football club. Not just in terms of trophies – they won the Junior Cup outright after three consecutive wins, and lifted the Senior Cup in 1891 and ’92 – but by far the best supported. It was at the Antelope they first entered the FA Cup; adopted open professionalism; changed their name to Southampton St Mary’s and became one of the nine original Southern League clubs.

Had the Works survived, even for just a few more years, St. Mary’s would be denied the use of the Antelope at this crucial juncture in their history. Although this may not have been immediately catastrophic it would make it particularity difficult for the club to take its next steps it is not difficult to suppose that St. Marys would have withered on the vine to become, not unlike the Works themselves, a footnote in the City’s footballing history.

In other cities it was a works team which went on to achieve prominence: Coventry City began life as Singers FC the works team of the Singer cycle manufacturer, whilst Manchester United’s origin lie among a group workers from the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. Had Oswald, Mordaunt & Co survived it is likely that the football team would have followed a similar path to these clubs; As football developed and professionalised the side would have outgrown the yard which had supplied players and would have gone it alone, taking on the name of Southampton FC.

This may have resulted in a few differences, some small enough to be imperceptible. In all likelihood the team name would still be Southampton Football Club and the side would, like almost all others at the time, have adopted Southampton’s civic coat-of-arms as a team crest (of which today’s club crest is a variation). Other differences would be more visible; the team today would not be nicknamed ‘the Saints’ – this being derived from St. Marys. They could well be known as ‘the Boatmen’ as Sholing, the last remaining team from the yard, are. The team may also play in different colours as red and white were adopted early on by St. Marys while the Dell may have remained an empty patch of land until developed for housing and today be several streets of Victorian terraces.

As it stands however, fans crossing the Itchen bridge on match day, the site on the left remains, forever, an alternative future, rather than the clubs past, but it is worth perhaps pausing for a moment to consider the role played by the Works both in their rise – doing much for the development of football in the area and subsequently their fall – paving the way for St. Mary’s to become the Southampton FC of today.


Chalk, G. & Holley, D. (1987) Saints A Complete Record of Southampton Football Club 1885-1987 Breedon Books

Gannaway, N. (1996) ‘Association Football in Hampshire Until 1914’ Hampshire Papers No.9 Hampshire County Council

Juson, D. & Bull, D. (2001) Full Time at The Dell Hagiology Publishing

Juson, D. ‘The Antelope Cricket Ground’ Deftly Hallowed [online] http://www.deftlyhallowed.co.uk/antelope%20ground.html

Leonard A.G.K (2010) ‘The speculatively-built ships of Oswald, Mordaunt and Company, 1879-84: Woolston, Bitterne, Test, Itchen and Netley’ Journal of Southampton Local History Forum No. 16 Winter 2010

The Premier League and Championship: Patterns of on-field inequality

2 Jan

PL and Champ CV2

The coefficient of variation is the standard deviation as a percentage of the mean average. This is effectively a measure of how spread out the number of wins is. A low percentage means that the number of wins for each club is more clumped around the average while a high percentage means that the number of wins recorded that season by each club is more spread out from the overall average – therefore implying that the division is much more uneven.

The technical bits out the way the graph shows an interesting pattern. Viewed over a time period of 1983-84 until the present the trend in the Championship appears to mirror that of the Premier League, but with a slight delay; For instance in 2010-11 to 2011-12 the Premier League saw a sharp rise in the coefficient from 33.7 to 43.8. A similarly sharp rise was then seen in the Championship between 2012-13 to 2013-14 29.6% to 34.5%

A gap appeared to open up between the two, when in 1993-93 the Premier Leagues coefficient rose to 38.1% from 23.9% of the previous season while at the same time the Championships declined from 31.4% to 23.1%

This gap was then closed in the late 90s thanks to the Championships coefficient increasing, notably between 1995-96 and 1998-99 when it rose from 20.2% to 35.6%

In the late nineties and early noughties, between 1997-98 and 2000-01 the coefficients of the two divisions were roughly in line however, from this point on the two have diverged with the Premier Leagues coefficient continuing on an upwards trajectory, while the Championships has taken a downward trajectory, where it even reached a low 19.6% in the 2012-13 season. Despite these different trajectories however, the trends seem to still be mirrored with the lines following a similar pattern, albeit on their differing trajectories.

The start of the Premier League era was associated with the top-division becoming more unequal in terms of wins and this trend fed into the Championship a few seasons later in a kind of trickle-down effect. However, over the last decade, the broad trend has been for the Championship to become more even on the field with teams recording a number of wins closer to the overall average for the division.

In terms of explanations I’m stumped. In my last post I looked at the long term trends for the top-flight going way back and my explanation there is that the general trend towards less on-field equality is driven by the reduction in the role of luck which has been an underlying feature from the development of goal-nets to the implementation of goal-line technology.

If anyone has any other hypothesis, or explanations then please feel free to add your thoughts! The data I have used is in the table below.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 339 other followers

%d bloggers like this: